Obama Ending HIV Travel Ban

Different people had different expectations as to what Obama would do after being elected, resulting in differing views of him from the left at present. He has been criticized for not yet being successful on the big issues. I feel this criticism is premature considering how close he is to passing  health care reform after so many other presidents have failed at this. I see the big advantages of Obama’s election to be no longer having an incompetent president who has harmed the country in so many ways. Not having a president who repeatedly does bad things is a major positive step.

Obama certainly deserves some credit, even if the amount is not certain, for the economy being in much better shape than most predicted at this time a year ago. Obama also deserves credit for a number of changes which are not top headline news. Since elected Obama has eliminated the ban on federal spending for embryonic stem cell research. He has ended the global gag rule which restricted reproductive rights internationally. He is ending the federal raids on medicinal marijuana. Another achievement came today as Obama announced the end of the HIV travel ban. Andrew Sullivan has posted his remarks:

A couple of years ago Michelle and I were in Africa and we tried to combat the stigma when we were in Kenya by taking a public HIV/AIDS test.  And I’m proud to announce today we’re about to take another step towards ending that stigma.

Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS.  Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease — yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat.  We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic — yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country.If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it.

And that’s why, on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year.  Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it.  We are finishing the job.  It’s a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it’s a step that will keep families together, and it’s a step that will save lives.

Interpretation of this is comparable to the question of whether the glass is half full or half empty. Obama has not brought about marriage equality, and there are many other areas where he has not done everything I might desire. That doesn’t change the fact that little by little we are seeing significant accomplishments in the first year of his presidency alone.

Update: The Washington Post has some history on the development of this ban and its elimination:

The regulations are the final procedural step in ending the ban, and will be published Monday in the Federal Register, to be followed by the standard 60-day waiting period prior to implementation.

A ban on travel and immigration to the U.S. by individuals with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was first established by the Reagan-era U.S. Public Health Service and then given further support when Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) added HIV to the travel-exclusion list in a move that was ultimately passed unanimously by the Senate in 1987.

A 1990-1991 effort to overturn the regulatory ban failed in the face of outcry and lobbying from conservative groups and bureaucratic turf disputes. The ban was upheld in 1993 when Congress added it to U.S. immigration laws.

The Senate finally voted to overturn the ban as part of approving legislation reauthorizing funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, in 2008, and President Bush signed it into law on July 30 of that year. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and then-Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-Ore.) led the process in the Senate.

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